Mary Jane Veloso is a Filipino woman who was convicted of smuggling 2.6kg of heroin into Indonesia. She was caught at Yogyakarta airport and subsequently sentenced to death. This is her story and one that is repeated many times over across the world, a sad story of a woman born into poverty who was only trying to provide for her family and colud subsequently lead to 2 young boys living the rest of their lives without their mother.
Mary Jane Veloso’s Story
Mary Jane is a 32 year old mother of 2 from Cabanatuan in the Philippines. She is the youngest of 5 siblings and was married at 17 but later split from her husband. Like many Filipinos she was an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) seeking work abroad to support her family.
She first worked in Dubai in the UAE for around 10 months. Her father says that she had to leave the job and return to the Philippines in January 2010 after her employer had attempted to rape her.
Once back in the Philippines she then tried to seek work abroad again but she had no success. Then steps up Maria Kristina Sergio, a friend and someone well known to her family and many around her. Maria Kristina persuaded Mary Jane to go to Malaysia with the promise of work, she would pay the airfare as Mary Jane didn’t have the money for it and she would pay her back after a couple of months of work. Mary Jane had now been trafficked.
When she arrived in Malaysia the job that Maria had promised was no longer available, this was when she was persuaded to go Indonesia.
Once Mary Jane had arrived at Yogyakarta Airport in April 2010 she was found to have 2.6kgs of heroin in her possession. Throughout her trial she maintained her innocence and that she was duped into carrying the suitcases by Maria.
Mary Jane was subsequently sentenced to death in October that year after failing to prove her innocence but due to a moratorium enacted by the then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono she was spared.
In 2014 the situation changed dramatically for Mary Jane. Joko Widodo was elected as the president in Indonesia and vowed there will be no amnesty for drug dealers and drug traffickers.
In December of that year Widodo issued a decree rejecting the application of clemency on behalf of Mary Jane, her execution has been scheduled for the near future.
From the point of her conviction to early 2015 there had been many unsuccessful attempts to bring her recruiter to justice, affidavits against Maria Sergio had gone missing, appeals that failed even though she had insufficient interpretors during her trial, time and time again Mary Jane had been let down.
Time was now running out for her. Her execution had been set for 30th April 2015 along with 8 others that included 2 members of the Bali 9 group, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. Coffins had been made and a cross bearing her name was crafted. By now there was a storm on social media regarding her case and a petition had been setup by change.org gathering over 250,000 signatures.
Recruiters Arrested, Mary Jane Spared
On the 28th April Maria Kristina Sergio and another recruiter were arrested, citing death threats from various sources they handed themselves in to police.
At this point there was very little news regarding her case and as far as the world and her family were concerned she was going to be executed.
Mary Jane had not been executed, she had been given a temporary reprieve thanks to the efforts of people like Felicity Gerry and groups like Migrante International. Mary Jane is now a witness in the case against her recruiters in the Philippines.
The Fight Continues
It’s now been over 2 years since the night Mary Jane was given a reprieve. She is still in Indonesia facing the death penalty.
Due to the Filipino legal system the case against her recruiters has been moving along at a snails pace and Mary Jane is no closer to the freedom she deserves.
The Philippines now has a leader who will not listen to her case, a leader who is hell bent on killing as many people as possible with no respect for the law or due process.
In April this year Mary Jane was meant to testify as a witness, answering questions in her deposition whilst in prison in Indonesia. This was subsequently blocked after a successful petition by her recruiters. The court of appeals in the Philippines cited that:
“It was in violation of the constitutional rights of the petitioners to confront their witnesses face to face”.
The court of appeals resolution also said:
“The Supreme Court categorically declared that taking of deposition through written interrogatories allowed under Rule 23 of the Rules of Court is applicable only in civil cases and not in criminal cases,”
So what is next for Mary Jane? Her recruiters, the people who trafficked her are able to use the instruments of law in their own country to try and protect their freedom yet Mary Jane could lose her life because she is unable to tell her story.
In cases like this special measures MUST be put into place to allow all sides to have their say and let the truth be told.
If Mary Jane loses her life this will show and prove that governments are willingly allowing drug cartels and people traffickers to go about their business unimpeded, ruining lives and families the world over.
Mary Jane’s crime? to be born into poverty and trying to provide for her family.
The sad thing is, Mary Jane Veloso is not alone. The global report by UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime) on human trafficking makes for horrific reading and the statistics should shame us all.
Hopefully one day Mary Jane will be able to return home and live a peaceful life with her family and one day we hope to see an end to the global misery that is human trafficking, but until that day arrives countries need to do more to end this misery and bring to justice the real criminals and not the people coerced, tricked and violently forced into these situations.
Tragic story of death-row maid caught up in Asia’s war on drugs (The Guardian)
Court blocks Mary Jane Veloso deposition in Indonesia (PhilStar Global)
Human Trafficking, Drug Trafficking & The Death Penalty (Indonesia Law Review – Felicity Gerry, Narelle Sherwill)